Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It seems that I’ve been eating experimental potatoes.  I was at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market last week (the market was in Hollywood, the farms were not) and bought some interesting-looking spuds, patterned with purple and gold swirls. They looked like this:

I was told they were called Lakers’ Bakers, i.e. the colors resembled the uniform of the Lakers basketball team, so that’s probably a name that’s unlikely to fly in the rest of the country. 

They’re grown by Weiser’s Family Farms, and apparently they’re the invention of an (as yet) unnamed potato breeder, “an experimental numbered selection.”  It seems Weiser’s are a little uneasy about the legal implications of using the Lakers name.  They were once calleded Zebra potatoes, which sounds confusing to me: wouldn’t you expect them to be black and white?  And sometimes they’re now referred to as Pinto potatoes – which still seems to beg a lot of questions.  What’s being invoked now?   The bean, the horse, the car?

I understand there are about 5000 varieties of potato in the world, of which I can probably name 10, and my local supermarket sells about 3. Did someone say
“dwindling biodiversity”?  Even the Yukon gold, which sounds like an ancient enough name, has only been around for about 30 years.

Having got home with my Lakers’ Bakers (or whatever the heck they’re called) I didn’t feel much in the mood for baked potatoes so I decided to roast them.  The beauty, as you see above, is only skin deep.

And the yellow and purple effect disappears completely as they cook, but then a rather wonderful thing happened to the skin during roasting, it became crisp and brittle, like a very well cooked piece of chicken skin.  It probably did no harm that I was cooking them in goose fat.

We did make a slightly half-hearted attempt this year to grow some Cranberry Red spuds. Having a garden that deer regularly amble through means that planting anything edible in the ground is pretty much doomed, so we grew them in a tub on the deck.  Things seemed to go pretty well – the seed potatoes sprouted, they grew, nice flowers appeared, (Marie Antoinette used to wear them in her hair), then they shriveled, which I understand is OK, but then we were left with a few tiny, tasteless spuds, about the size of Brussels sprouts.  Not exactly nature’s bounty.  Probably best to leave it to the experimenters.

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